Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Toyota Corolla Cross Review:

The crossover revolution isn’t the only one taking place in the automotive world. Electric (EV) and hybrid technologies are becoming increasingly popular. For various reasons EVs aren’t really considered to be a completely viable option for the South African market. Toyota realised that hybrid tech can be and introduced the first-ever hybrid to be manufactured on this continent: the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid. And being a hybrid makes it a bit of an outlier.

Now the Corolla Cross is a good-looking vehicle for me, at least. Unlike most of its competition, it doesn’t quite look the part of an SUV. It’s sleeker and more minimalistic, like a midrange hatchback. Although it is smaller than some of its main competitors it offers good ground clearance and ample space for a medium-sized family.

The interior is very much what you’d expect from a Toyota. The Corolla Cross we had, had a striking red leather interior with some black accents that made it feel rather dynamic and high end. As for performance, the Corolla Cross Hybrid was a pleasant surprise. It has a closed-loop hybrid system, meaning it charges itself. It utilises two power units, a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated internal combustion engine (ICE), which produces 72kW, and a 40kW electric motor. Coupled to the latter is a generator that spins up when braking or coasting to capture any energy that would otherwise be lost in a conventional ICE system. The energy is then stored in a battery.

When the Corolla Cross Hybrid is travelling below a speed of 40km/h and requires little torque and power, it will only use the electric motor. This means the ICE is switched off completely, translating into a very quiet drive, something that will come in handy when cruising in the Kruger. The Corolla Cross will also switch to the electric motor at highway speeds if the system detects that little throttle is being used while travelling at constant speeds.

The hybrid system is matched to a CVT. What does this mean for the average consumer? Well, as I mentioned, if you enjoy visiting destinations such as the Kruger, Dinokeng and Pilansberg, you can have a calm and quiet drive while going on game drives. And it means that fuel consumption is excellent.

The Corolla Cross performs exceptionally at low speeds when the electric motor does most of the work. At higher speeds, the fuel consumption climbs because the ICE is doing most of the job. During testing, the Corolla Cross returned figures of about 5.4 litres/100km. However, there have been reports of people getting that figure to as low as 3.8 litres/100km. The electric motor also makes the Corolla Cross feel a bit nippier when accelerating from standstill because of the instant torque provided by the electric motor.

Now, what are the drawbacks? There aren’t many, but a hybrid does have some cons. One of these is a smaller fuel tank to make space for the batteries. In this case it has a 50-litre tank, so if you’re driving long distances and utilising the ICE more than the electric motor, the range might become an issue. The ICE also feels slightly underpowered, especially when working independently from the electric motor.

The entire Corolla Cross range is well equipped. The XR variant we had has two USB ports for the rear passengers and only one USB port for the driver and front passenger. However, a wireless charging port is available as an extra. The infotainment system works particularly well. The software is fast and responsive, and the interface is very user-friendly. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard on the XS and XR, while a reverse-view camera is available across the range.

The top-of-the-range XR also has standard safety features such as adaptive cruise control, six airbags, lane-departure warning, and rear parking sensors. To conclude, the Corolla Cross offers a good balance between functionality and affordability. It’s a very good package and has the added advantage of offering Toyota’s traditional peace of mind regarding resale value and reliability. Not to mention you also get a lot of bang for your buck. In fact, the price tag of the Corolla Cross Hybrid is very similar to that of the original Prius, which was the first hybrid to hit South African shores back in the day. That could mean that either the Prius was a bit overpriced back in the day, or that the Corolla Cross Hybrid is a bargain. I tend to think that it’s the latter.

*Toyota Corolla Cross 1.8XR CVT HV: R461 700. The model range includes five variants, priced from R360 400.

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